eBooks from the high seas

Yes, eBook piracy.


Well, if the Metro says it’s true, then it must be.  But the article, although eye-catching, is rather wooly in it’s content.

So what constitutes eBook piracy, or ‘copyright infringement’ in lawyer-speak. Such an infringement could actually be as little as giving your eBook to someone else to read, or it could be using free file conversion software to convert an eBook from one format to another, so you can read it on another device.

Or it can be good ol’ filesharing and downloading me hearties.

Some people would argue that distributing eBooks for free via newsgroups, P2P, etc is no more damaging to publishers than second hand bookshops and lending libraries in terms of royalties earned per reader. However, leaving aside the politics of piracy, personal opinions and whether ‘home taping is killing music’, eBook piracy is certainly potentially more damaging to book trade than the charity shop or the Idea Store.

For example, although I’ve yet to see a charity shop without a copy of ‘Shogun’ by James Clavel, I’m unlikely to be able to pick up the latest bestseller. Nor is this guaranteed in a public library, especially now with ever more limited budgets and other borrowers to contend with. And even if you borrow or buy a second hand book, it may well encourage you to buy a new edition if you discover a liking for the author or genre.

And plenty of people just like the idea of owning a brand new book.

eBooks on the other hand have one obvious feature – there is no difference between a new eBook and a pirate book. No dog-eared corners, coffee stains or water damage from being dropped in the bath. Even when you download a pirate DVD there’s a chance you’ll get one with a compressed image resolution, or a music file ripped at a low sound quality, but text files don’t have this problem.

When there’s no appreciable difference in quality between pirate and bought copy then even the most saintly reader will probably plump for the book that has no intrusive digital rights management, can be read on any eReader any number of times, and is, of course, free.